Steffi Graf, the first and only Golden Slam

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Steffi Graf, the first and only Golden Slam

You say you want a revolution, you tell me that it's evolution, sang the Beatles. Well, you know, we all want to change the world, but Steffi Graf did it in that revolutionary and unique 1988 season. Australian Open Before the 1988 tournament, the Australian Open had always been seen as the poorest of the four Grand Slam events.

Things changed as the tournament moved from Kooyong to Flinders Park, now known as Melbourne Park in the new National Tennis Centre. The playing surface, the Guardian revealed, “known as Rebound Ace – science bit: an acrylic surface cushioned by polyurethane rubber – was given the thumbs up by the vast majority of players”.

It was the most neutral surface seen, according to Richard Evans of the Times. Seeded third, Chris Evert surprisingly beat Martina Navratilova in the semifinals. In her 34th Grand Slam final, bidding for her 19th title, Evert would face machine-like Steffi Graf.

"We had played only one game when I asked myself 'What the hell am I going to do?'" said second-round opponent, Janine Thompson. In the first four matches, Fraulein Forehand lost just 13 games. Then she crushed defending champion Hana Mandlikova 6-2 6-2 in the quarter-finals, and her compatriot Claudia Kohde-Kilsch in just 45 minutes in the semi-finals.

The title-match followed the same pattern as Graf gained a 6-1 5-1 lead. Evert fought back but after a tiebreaker, she surrendered to a fifth consecutive straight-sets defeat against the German. Perfection Unlike Martina Navratilova’s 1983, a perfect season was never in the cards for Graf, as she lost to Gabriela Sabatini twice early in the season, first in the final of Boca Raton, and then in the semi-finals of Amelia Island.

But a streak of 46 consecutive wins unless the year-end championships, when she was lost in the semi-finals by Pam Shriver, changed everything. Nonetheless, she finished the year with a 72-3 match record. "Everywhere I went people were asking me about the Grand Slam.

I could never get away from it” she repeated. Beliefs and expectations surged after her massive Roland Garros campaign Roland Garros The women's game was fast becoming the teenagers' tournament.

At 18, Graf would be the oldest semi-finalist in the 1988 French Open. Martina Navratilova admitted she didn't take seriously enough Zvereva, an opponent she had previously beaten twice and had only lost seven games too.

But she affirmed to consider herself, independently from the rankings, the best player in the world. "She can say what she wants. If I play my best, she'd better be careful" Graf reacted. After drilling too many drop shots in the first round, Graf obliterated anyone else in her path until the semifinals Sabatini at least pushed her a little, losing 6-3 7-6 after trailing 5-3 in the second set.

The German displayed "a familiar tendency to pause on the brink of success," as The Times put it, but Zvereva was about to discover a would be a familiar tendency to cruelty. Zvereva, the first Soviet to reach a Grand Slam final since 1974, suffered the first double bagel in a Grand Slam final since 1911 when Dorothy Lambert Chambers defeated D.

P. Boothby at Wimbledon in just 32 minutes. ''My forehand is getting better,'' Graf said. ''Just in the last couple of weeks, I've really made a step forward. I feel stronger going into Wimbledon this year than last”.

Wimbledon At Church Road, Graf started a new era. “This is how it should happen: I lost to a better player on the final day,” said Martina Navratilova, adjusting to life with a finalist’s plate at The Championships for the first time in nine appearances.

"This is the end of a chapter," she added. "Passing the torch, if you want to call it that." "Winning is such a special feeling", Graf said after the first of her seven Wimbledon triumphs. "I was confident before the match, but the first set made me very angry.

I just wanted to hang in there, to show I could play much better than I was". Just turned 19, Graf came into the title-match having dropped just 17 games through six matches and having not lost a set in 20 Grand Slam matches.

On the contrary, Navratilova completed the last major win over the friend and close rival Chris Evert as Chris Evert sent a ball wide while the umpire forgot to call the match. In 1987, Graf had been the fresh pretender who defeated Navratilova for her maiden major win at the French Open before the Czech-born American took her revenge at Wimbledon.

Fraulein Forehand had been world No.1 for nine months now. She's undeniably the woman to beat. "My backhand was terrible," Graf conceded. "I just didn't feel comfortable out there. I had been trying to get good angles on my returns, but in the second set I played more to her volley, letting her hit it, then getting another chance." Navratilova led by a set and a break, but two service return winners gave Graf a foothold and restored her confidence.

She won nine games in a row before a rain delay interrupted the game at 3-1 in the third. "I saw her in the locker room and she was so down," Graf said. "I thought, If she’s going to play like she looks, she can’t win".

And she couldn't. Graf broke twice more to secure a 5-7, 6-2, 6-1 victory. Us Open At New York, playing on synthetic Deco II hardcourt Graf gave more than 21,000 fans a day to remember. For the first time in 18 years, tennis has a Grand Slam champion.

Graf defeated Gabriela Sabatini 6-3 3-6 6-1 entering in that exclusive group with Don Budge, Maureen Connolly, Rod Laver and Margaret Court, the only players able to win the four majors in a calendar year. After the match, she rushed to the box seats where her family was sitting.

Gordon Jorgensen, then president of the United States Tennis Association, gave Graf a bracelet with four diamonds, one for each tournament. Olympics Those four diamonds became five circles at Seoul. Sports Illustrated first coined the phrase "Golden Slam" for what Graf clinched that fall.

"To me, this was bigger than a grand slam, it was more special," she said to CNN remembering the Olympic glory. "It's a different feeling, it's very unique and definitely more special". "I was a bit tired emotionally, probably physically as well," Graf said.

"I just remember arriving at the airport and all the attention that I was getting, I just think I wasn't quite prepared for it at that point." But she took the chance to go one better than Budge, and the rest of the Grand Slammers.

In 1988, tennis became an Olympic sport again for the first time since 1924. In Seoul, Graf lost just one set in running through the draw towards the final. Sabatini was waiting for her but Graf beat her Argentine perfectionist and fragile rival 6-3, 6-3.

Graf went on to win 17 more major titles, but she did not win another Grand Slam. In 1989 and 1993, Graf captured three major titles and reached the final in the one she did not win. But no man or woman No man or woman has approached a Golden Slam since that magic 1988.

Steffi Graf completed that revolution. She really changed the world. .